Policy Update: Creating healthy futures for Illinoisans

Last week, we gave you a thorough update on our ongoing policy advocacy on behalf of special education students in Illinois. This legislative session continues to be a significant milestone in the fight for health justice with a number of bills introduced to protect and expand access to resources needed for building healthy futures in Illinois. Read more below for updates on bills including protections for SNAP, preventative HIV medication for youth, and Medicaid and health insurance.

Policy update: Feeding Illinoisans and their families

As the federal government threatens access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), a program that helps around 40 million people and their families put food on their tables, Illinois advocates and legislators are taking initiative to improve and expand programs to keep Illinoisans and their families fed. Current legislation tackling problems of food assistance programs include:

SNAP feeds approximately 40 million Americans and their families, and about 2 million Illinoisans

Legal Council supports these bills and urges elected officials to protect the health of Illinoisans by passing these pieces of legislation. You can help keep families fed by calling your state representative or senator and urging them to vote YES to these bills. In response to federal attacks on SNAP, you can leave a comment before April 10 on the Administration’s proposed change to the program that could take away food assistance from 755,000 Americans with low incomes.

Immigrant victims of trafficking, torture, and other serious crimes are eligible to receive medical, food, and cash assistance through a state program called VTTC. This program will end this year if an extension is not passed. The VTTC program provides benefits for up to one year while the survivor prepares his or her visa or asylum application. This time-limited support is critical for a small group of survivors who are highly susceptible to further exploitation and harm. HB2118 seeks to extend the program indefinitely.

Policy victory: Expanding access to HIV preventative medication for Illinois youth

In May 2018, the federal government expanded access to the HIV prevention, once-daily pill PrEP to adolescents vulnerable to HIV who weigh at least 77 pounds. PrEP is nearly 100% effective at preventing HIV transmission when used consistently and correctly. HB 2665 would align Illinois law with federal guidance on a minor’s ability to access preventive health care services, like PrEP, without parental consent. This bill clarifies that health care providers can prescribe PrEP to youth; makes preventative options more accessible for young people vulnerable to HIV; helps reduce the amount of new HIV cases in Illinois youth; and maintains current access to STI/STD testing and treatment, both of which are components of PrEP-related programming.

In Illinois, HIV affects young people disproportionately. From 2006-2015, new HIV diagnoses among persons aged 25-29 increased by 19% and the number among 20-24 year olds increased by 67%.

The Illinois House passed HB 2665 on April 4, but the bill still must be approved by the senate and the governor. Look out for more updates soon! Thank you to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago for their leadership on this bill.

Policy update: Strengthening Medicaid’s transparency and coverage for life-saving medications

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HB2259 - Medicaid Drug & Therapeutics Board Transparency Act: This bill is an important step to increase Medicaid’s transparency and accountability when determining which live-saving medications to provide to Medicaid recipients. HB 2259 would increase transparency in the decision-making process of the Medicaid Drug and Therapeutics Board, which with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services determines the fee-for-service medication formulary in the Illinois Medicaid program.

On March 21, this bill passed out of the House Human Services Appropriations Committee

Policy update: Protecting Illinois consumers

The Illinois House Insurance Committee voted to adopt HB 471, a bill that would help protect Illinois consumers, on April 4. The bill would give the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) the ability to reject unreasonable health insurance rates. States that have an internal rate review process have been shown to have more stable, and sometimes lower, premium costs for private health insurance. Prior approval is standard practice in 36 states and D.C.

As a first step in stabilizing our Marketplace and protecting consumers, Illinois needs to give the DOI the authority to reject unreasonable rate increases. Alongside our state partners in Protect Our Care IL, Legal Council supports efforts to protect consumers and ensure access to quality, affordable health coverage for all Illinoisans.

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